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Game hints & tips:

Find more adventure games:

Computer games and their development technology:

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Playing older games on modern PCs:

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GoogleAds used to appear here, where I thought that they added value. New EU privacy regulations (2015) require inappropriate messages to visitors, so the ads have been removed.

Computer Games (Non-Violent, Problem-Solving Variety)

Myst game image

I am no expert on computer games - I don't get much time to play them.

I do, however, enjoy really good adventure games that involve problem solving. The best of these games seem to me to be amazing works of art and technology. Developing these games must be not unlike working on a blockbuster such as The Lord of the Rings (some indication of the necessary skills will be found in the links in the right hand panel).

See also the links to the right!

Myst (Series of Games)


Picture of Myst island

I was blown away by this game when it came out. The surreal and beautiful atmosphere of the island and its linked worlds, the immersive music and sound effects, and the nature of the problems to be solved, drew me completely in. I can remember on more than one occasion playing it at three o'clock in the morning on a small laptop in a hotel bedroom, knowing that I was going to have to get up in another four hours and go to work!

This game has very modest PC requirements, and you explore its worlds in a "slide-show" format, with animated sections. People who criticize it for its format probably just don't like this kind of game. Once immersed in it (which the music and sound effects help with immensely) then the means of moving through the worlds becomes almost irrelevant.

Another thing I really liked about this game (and its sequels) was that the problems, or puzzles, were mostly a well-integrated part of the story, and not just a barrier to moving on to the next thing.

I notice that a new version of this game (realMYST) has been produced, using modern game technology. If I hadn't played the original, I might well give this try. It would certainly be interesting to compare it with the original.

If you want to read more about the game and its technology, look here.


Screenshot from Riven

I still think that this is the masterpiece of the series (although I haven't played the last one yet), and possibly one of the greatest games of its type every produced.

It still uses a "slide-show" format to move around its worlds, but with much more animation than in the original game. The linked worlds and the underlying story that hangs it all together are true works of art. Like all the Myst games, the technology you are exploring has a Victorian, Jules Verne quality to it, mixed with beautiful natural landscapes and structures that include elements of classical Greek. In the case of Riven, some architecture reminiscent of Pueblo Indian is mixed in for good measure!

The build up to the release of this game was one of prolonged anticipation, as far as I was concerned. Along with many other people, I haunted the Riven web site, exploring the pre-release images and animations of intricate mechanisms and strange animals. When the game was finally released it really lived up to the trailers. My only real disappointment with it was that it comes to an end, as all good things must; when you finally reach the inside of the structure shown on the cover of the game, you have hit the edge and there is nowhere else to go! Also, it is mostly a lonely set of worlds; you don't interact much with other people (although when you do, it's important!).

If you want to read more about the game and its technology, look here.

Myst III: Exile

Screenshot from Myst Exile

This game was a little "dumbed down" from Riven, one of the intentions being to allow you to explore more of the worlds without having to solve puzzles first. However it was still very enjoyable to play, and I found some of the puzzles still fiendishly difficult.

This game introduced a 360 degree panorama system for viewing the world.

On a scale of Riven=10, to me this scored 8 (but that makes it a high score).

If you want to read more about the game and its technology, look here.

Uru: Ages Beyond Myst

Screenshot from Uru

This has several differences in style from the preceding games. The original intention was that it would be almost infinitely extendable, and become more interactive, via online additions, but the ambitions in this area had to be dialed back (although not completely discarded - there are, for example, both free and non-free bolt-ons to this game).

  • Update - June 2013
  • Back in February 2011 we had this announcement:
  • Myst Online: Uru Live Again
  • “The Ages of Uru are available again. We've opened all the Ages, and added most of the goodies in MO:UL. We're referring to it as MO:UL again—feel free to explore and enjoy.
  • “And the cost is pretty good. Free!
  • Since then things have moved on - the latest links on this topic will be found here.
  • A good review will be found here. More info here, and more info about Myst-Uru modding here. Thanks, Erika!

The first difference I noticed was when I came to install it. There was only one disk, but it became obvious as the software unpacked itself (for what seemed like hours) that there was some amazing compression technology in use.

The second and main difference was that the worlds are fully modelled, by which I mean that you can move through them smoothly and continuously, kick rocks or other objects out of the way and later on find them where you left them. You can (and have to) run and jump, both up and down, in various interesting and sometimes perilous situations. How all the variety and complexity of the various worlds, modelled in this way, was made to fit onto a single disk, is still amazing to me. The penalty of the limited disk space, perhaps, is that some of the worlds come to a slightly disappointing and premature end - one of the worlds rewards much problem solving and exploration by the discovery of a not very interesting room at the end of a passage! (Of course, I could have missed something really subtle there... or maybe a future extension will appear...)

Another difference from the previous games is that you are represented by an avatar, whose appearance you can customize in many ways. You can play in a mode where you see what your avatar is doing, or in a first-person mode where you see out of your avatar's eyes, so to speak. Both modes are useful.

The fully modelled worlds (which contain many animations) are still a wonder to me. I spent a long time at the beginning of the game just wandering around the landscape surrounding the cleft in the side of the volcano (and still missed something vital!).

If you want to read more about the game and its technology, look here.

Myst IV: Revelation

Screenshot from Myst IV

This game continues the evolution from Myst III. I started to play it some time ago, and found the opening segment (Tomahna) very promising. But having chosen to link next to the dark, gravity-defying Age of Spire, I found the puzzles there to be exasperating and almost pointlessly difficult, so much so that I gave up on the game - although I do plan to return to it at some time.

Apart from that, I can only say that the graphical quality is extremely good, as you would expect from the Myst franchise.

If you want to read more about the game and its technology, look here, and there is an excellent review of the game here.

Myst V: End Of Ages

Screenshot from Myst V

All I know about this game so far is what you will know if you click the above picture. It looks like great stuff. Have fun!

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Monkey Island (Series Of Games)

Picture of Monkey Island game cover

I have played two games from this LucasArts series (the fourth and fifth), The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape From Monkey Island.

I found the first one to be great fun, with a wonderfully sardonic sense of humour (and an almost infinite supply of in-jokes), as well as some superbly tricky puzzles. The humour is reminiscent of Pirates of The Caribbean - I am not sure where the original source of the humour is, but it's great stuff.

The second one is also a good game, but for some reason I found the humour to be just a little "off".

If you have problems running older games like this one on Windows XP or other modern operating systems (which I haven't tried) then this link might be useful.

  • Good news!
  • I found out in July 2011 that complete remakes have been made of the first two Monkey Island games. As of January 2012 I have started playing the first one... great stuff.
  • More details on the remakes here.

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Picture of Sanctuary in Keepsake

Keepsake is another point-and-click game of the "Where has everybody gone?" variety. The setting is Dragonvale Academy, a large Hogwarts-type building (with many more ramifications than first appear) and its wooded surroundings, from which all the students and teachers of magic have mysteriously disappeared. You are Lydia, a newly-arrived student, trying to find her friend along with everyone else.

I found this game to be a most enjoyable experience (with a few irritating exceptions that I can easily forgive, noted at the end).

The Academy, with its intricate architecture, terraces and water features, is a beautiful and interesting place to wander around, and becomes even more interesting as you start things working and gain access to new sections. The problems that present themselves are mostly logical and fun to tackle, ranging from fairly easy to extremely difficult, including two superb piece-moving puzzles.

A great feature of the game is its built-in progressive hint system (the next best thing to which, for all games, can be found here). One thing it does is save you endlessly wandering around the vast environment looking for what comes next. Without solving anything for you it tells you (if you need to know) what the next goal is and where to head off to to start working on it. And if you meet an intractable problem, it will give you progressive hints leading up to a complete solution.

In the disc set that I have, the built-in help also provides a map of the sections around you, which (without revealing too much) can save you some tedious drawing. If your version doesn't have this, you may want to download the Keepsake patch.

For most of the adventure you have a companion with whom you can argue and discuss things (and who will sometimes be able to do things that you as the heroine can't). I found this a pleasant change from a game like Myst, where you are basically on your own. And if you start walking around aimlessly, a conversation often starts up that can occasionally provide some useful hints about what you are doing.

I found just one of the puzzles - involving changing seasons and growing flowers - to be pointlessly difficult (and generally pointless, in fact), and without compunction I asked for the solution to it. The information you need to solve it appears on a tapestry, but you would need to be psychic to work out the correct solution from it, and you would also need the patience of Job since each iteration of the solving process involves a long journey between two places in the Academy (an aspect of game play that I always find tedious).

The toughest challenge for me was the Observatory puzzle. The mechanical aspects are fun, but working out exactly what you have to do and extracting the vital information from what you have already found (which at first sight appears useless) is really tough.

Macho types will find the storyline and the ending somewhat soppy, and the videos that contain much of the back-story are more than a little naff. But if you like puzzle-solving adventures then Keepsake gets almost all of the things that really matter right.

For more information on this game, go here.

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Syberia and Syberia II

Syberia, created by the Belgian comic artist and video game developer Benoît Sokal, is (as of January 2012) the highest-ranked game in the GamingExcellence adventure game ratings, and I am not at all surprised.

The story, unusually strong for computer games, tells of the extraordinary journey (both personal and literal) of Kate Walker, an American attorney sent to the small European town of Valadilène to complete the purchase of the town's defunct factory for making automatons. Like Kate herself, the player has little idea of the unexpected journey ahead, which after many twists and turns will end in the frozen north - ultimately on the supposedly mythical island of Syberia.

The long and engrossing story is told in two equally-good parts, Syberia and Syberia II. They are best treated as one game, and on no account begin the first without also having the second!

I purchased these games in a single DVD package called The Syberia Collection, which includes Benoît's earlier (and much inferior) game Amerzone, which has no relationship to the story of Syberia (apart from being a place mentioned in that game). You can have some fun playing Amerzone, but after playing Syberia you will need to dial your expectations for story, graphics and game-play way, way back.

The puzzles in Syberia are mostly logical, fun and well integrated with the story. Unusually for me, I was able to solve most of them without help, although occasionally considerable persistence is required! If you need help, I highly recommend the UHS Progressive Hint System for this and other games, which (unlike game walkthroughs) is spoiler-free.

You can read an excellent review of Syberia and Syberia II here and here. I suspect that game-play has been improved further since these reviews were written, as I didn't experience most of the few reported minor irritations that the reviewer did.

Here are a few of my screenshots, which represent only a tiny minority of the many locations (hover the mouse over each for more information):


Syberia screenshot Syberia screenshot Syberia screenshot Syberia screenshot

Syberia II

Syberia screenshot Syberia screenshot Syberia screenshot Syberia screenshot Syberia screenshot

Having played and thoroughly enjoyed these games, I plan to try Benoît Sokal's later game Paradise, which sounds really interesting.

The long-planned Syberia sequel, Syberia III, is finally available, but I have to say that the reviews don't look too encouraging. Worth checking out, though.

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Screenshot of Gorogoa

Gorogoa is simply one-of-a-kind.

If Michelangelo had created a hand-drawn computer art puzzle game, it might have been like this one.

Click the image to see my Categorian post on this wonderful game.

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The Gardens Between

Screenshot of The Gardens Between

The Gardens Between is another unique puzzle game, this one of childhood memories and friendship.

This Australian production is a chill-out gem, almost worth having for its relaxing, meditative soundtrack alone.

Click the image to see my review on Categorian.

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Other Games

  • Where can I find another good game?
  • You can find more games that I like, including some in other categories (e.g. games exploring large and realistic environments) here in my Categorian blog. In particular, I strongly recommend Subnautica, which has no puzzles as such but involves exploration of vast and varied underwater scenery, much use of creative skills and a great story.

  • Extermination Request!
  • Picture of bugs
  • There are two features of problem-solving adventure games that I don't get on with:
    1. Pixel hunting. These games make you search every pixel on the screen looking for some active spot - if you miss it, you don't get anywhere in the game. This is tedious in the extreme.
    2. Random puzzles. For example, you are walking along a jungle path, and lying on the ground is a puzzle that you have to solve if you want to make progress. There is no rationale for that dratted puzzle being there on the jungle floor, and no connection with the story line.
    Picture of mailbox
  • If you have some favourite problem-solving adventure games that don't fall into this "extermination" category, then I would love to hear from you!
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